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Ryan Tubridy’s Late Late Show highs and lows: From Valentine’s Day specials to Eurovision fights


Ryan Tubridy dressed as the Scarecrow from Wizard Of Oz. Photo: Andres Poveda

Ryan Tubridy dressed as the Scarecrow from Wizard Of Oz. Photo: Andres Poveda

Ryan Tubridy dressed as the Scarecrow from Wizard Of Oz. Photo: Andres Poveda

When Ryan Tubridy was announced as the third host of The Late Late Show in 2009 it came as something of a shock – even to the man himself.

Tubridy was in the running with the late Gerry Ryan and Miriam O’Callaghan, and thought he lacked the experience his rivals had.

“I just thought I was too young and maybe I was,” he told a newspaper in 2021. “Looking back? I think I had a lot more living to do, a lot more learning.”

For such an affable person, Tubridy is a surprisingly divisive broadcaster.

Some people seem to relish spending their Friday nights giving out about him on Twitter, others talk about breaking down in joyful tears while watching the Toy Show every year. He has been described online as “terrible”, and also as Santa’s “Official Emissary in Ireland”.

He was first noticed by RTÉ producers when he was just 13 years old. He had written a letter of complaint to the Irish Times about the lack of films for children.

Producers were impressed and he secured a spot reviewing books and films on RTÉ’s Poparama.

After college, he took on a gig as a runner on the Gerry Ryan radio show before fronting The Full Irish and Morning Glory.

He started building up TV roles and presented The Rose of Tralee and Tubridy Tonight before Pat Kenny announced he was standing down from The Late Late Show.

His USP has been his combination of his boyish enthusiasm and his self-confessed “nerdiness”.

When he started on The Late Late Show he arrived with a new set and a new team. His opening night was the most watched episode – outside of the Toy Show – since Gay Byrne’s retirement in May 1999.

And it contained a moment that endeared him to viewers when Brian McFadden claimed that Tubridy would move halfway around the world and away from his children if a job opportunity arose. Tubridy replied immediately and genuinely: “I wouldn’t.”

But under Ryan’s tenure there have been far fewer “we’re changing the country’s cultural discourse” water-cooler moments.

It’s hard to underestimate the impact episodes had on Ireland when Gay presented. Programmes like ‘The Black and White Minister’ show, interviews with Terry Keane and Annie Murphy and specials on Aids.

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When Pat Kenny took over there were also controversial moments that got the country talking, such as the John Waters, Eoghan Harris and Eamon Dunphy election debates, and tearing up the Toy Show tickets live on air. But viewing habits and the country have changed and The Late Late Show is no longer that sort of show, and Tubridy is not that sort of broadcaster.

One of his most controversial moments in recent years was when Tubridy asked Derry Girls star Jamie-Lee O’Donnell her age.

The actress politely explained why she thought the question was inherently misogynistic. “I’m going to move on. I can read the mood when I see it,” Tubridy said.

He also has come under fire on occasion for the way he has interviewed politicians; sometimes he is criticised for veering away from harder questions. He previously said tussling with TDs doesn’t appeal to him as he is “far too polite for it”.

Clearly he is not a combative presenter, but where Tubridy excels as a broadcaster is his deep sense of empathy and compassion.

And this has resulted in moving interviews with guests like Charlie Bird, and the late cervical cancer campaigners Vicky Phelan and Lynsey Bennett.

He handled interviewees with extreme sensitivity and respect. This resulted in some memorable and affecting moments on TV, such as Christy Dignam singing Down By The Salley Gardens.

He also is excellent at talking down the barrel of the camera. And has a confidence, ease and naturalism that many would envy. This skill set stuck with him when he was broadcasting through Covid.

Obviously, his time on The Late Late Show will be defined by his time fronting the Toy Show.

In RTÉ chief Dee Forbes’ statement yesterday, she thanked him for transforming “The Late Late Toy Show into a national event”.

And he did do that. He took it from a somewhat bizarre annual event into a money-churning juggernaut.

Each year, Tubridy would talk at length, about his love of the show’s silliness, and goofiness.

His approach to the Toy Show was worlds away from the compressed discomfort both Kenny and Byrne seemed to struggle with.

He seems happiest when interviewing children and there have been countless moments from the Toy Show under Tubridy’s tenure that have gone viral.

John Joe the horologist, family reunions, children being overwhelmed when they meet their idols and sports stars, and of course Adam King whose virtual hug was printed on T-shirts and An Post stamps.

While many can imagine The Late Late Show without Ryan, some may find it difficult to envision the Toy Show without him. Are any of those in the running able to do those Billie Barry-inspired dance performances? Do any of them want to?

“That’s going to be the hardest part of the gig,” an RTÉ insider said. “It’s The Late Late Show’s most lucrative programme, in some ways it’s the most important part to get right.”​

Here are some of the most memorable moments of Tubridy’s tenure.

The Billy McGuinness and Linda Martin fight

The two Eurovision mentors almost came to blows on the chat show when Aslan’s McGuinness accused Louis Walsh’s act of having an unfair advantage. Linda replied by calling Billy “an odious little man” and striding over to him. Watching Tubridy nervously de-escalating the feud was more memorable than any of the songs performed that night.​

Charlie Bird and Vicky Phelan

Ryan Tubridy is a compassionate and empathetic broadcaster and this was evident in the gentle and respectful way he conducted interviews with guests Charlie Bird and Vicky Phelan.​

Jamie-Lee O’Donnell

Last year he drew criticism when he asked Derry Girls actress Jamie-Lee O’Donnell about her age. The actress said the question was inherently misogynistic and that male actors rarely get asked the same questions.

He came under criticism from some viewers, while others said it was a valid question.

The first Valentine’s Day special

The first Valentine’s Day special featuring 200 “single and salivating men and women” (Tubs’ own words) was a lively affair and saw the host hand out hampers of lubricant to guests. It resulted in 300 complaints from viewers, but the cringe factor was what made it so memorable.​

Adam King

The aspiring astronaut won over audiences when he appeared as a toy tester on The Late Late Toy Show in 2020. Given the Covid-19 restrictions he held up a picture of a heart that read “a hug for you” in lieu of not being able to give Tubridy, or his surprise guest, hospital porter John Doyle, a proper hug. King was such a hit with the Toy Show team that they incorporated him into the Toy Show Musical.​

Russell Crowe playing with the band

The Gladiator actor popped up on to the set’s balcony to give an impromptu performance after Ryan Tubridy coaxed him to give the studio “something to tap our toes to”. Russell performed a rendition of Johnny Cash classic Folsom Prison Blues.​

Miriam Margolyes unique offer

Tubridy was left red-faced when the English actress offered to fellate anyone in exchange for Irish citizenship. “We’ll pass that on to the Department of Foreign Affairs,” he said.

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